Concert pianist Tamriko Siprashvili, founder of Inspire Academy of Music & Arts in Pleasanton, for years resisted musicians from other parts of the world who asked for online instruction.
"Some would say online teaching was great, but I never believed in that," Siprashvili said. "I believed in human interaction."
Then the world began sheltering in place.
"When it started happening, I said, 'What's going to happen to all of these children, all of my teachers?'" Siprashvili recalled.
She soon realized the only choice was to hold classes via the Internet.
"My goal was for children to have the continuous education," Siprashvili said. "Also, the teachers needed to have income. I felt like it was the logical move to do, a very painful move but very logical."
For her first online piano lesson, Siprashvili used her cell phone and found it challenging to set up correctly.
"I remember that first day – it was very hard in the beginning," she said.
Now she uses a special mount and has learned what works with FaceTime and Zoom – and what doesn't.
"When I teach, toward the end of each lesson, I always ask myself, 'What did I accomplish with this student today?' Yes, I still do accomplish, but it takes a little longer and much more work from me," Siprashvili said.
Normally she sits next to the student at the piano to demonstrate fingering and make notations in the music. Now pupils must make their own notations at her direction, which takes longer, she explained.
Inspire has more than 200 students enrolled in various musical studies, and Siprashvili herself has 22 piano students.
"We are blessed that we live in this area," she noted, where her students have everything they need for online instructions.
Even so, there can be problems with the Internet connection freezing.
Nancy Mitchell, who has been teaching violin in Danville for 27 years, agrees that connections can be a problem, with freezing or a lag, but says right now online teaching is worth the drawbacks.
"For me, it's about keeping the kids motivated and their skills sharp, although it's not something I would normally recommend," Mitchell said. "Music trains the brain, so I think it's important. And their lessons are a form of socialization. I feel so lucky that I can do this."
Of her 25 students, only one opted not to have online instruction, which she does mostly using FaceTime.
"At the beginning of this whole shutdown, I knew I would have to isolate myself," Mitchell remembered. "The parents have been totally supportive. They have even offered to do my grocery shopping for me."
She said previously she was a "dinosaur" regarding technology but she has come a long way.
"Most of the kids are using their phones or their iPads," she said. "One student wanted to do Skype so the parent had to help me through that."
Her students "attend" lessons in their pajamas sometimes, mostly on phones or iPads in their bedrooms or their parents' room so they can have their lesson while the parents work in other parts of the house.
Mitchell, who also plays with Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra, has continued in her living room, where she has a grand piano, and she said the floor is now covered with music.
"One hard thing is getting them the music because I use a lot of my own," she said. "Now I am telling some of them to buy the books."
"I used to accompany them on the piano, and we would play duets, but that's out the door for now," she added.
Mitchell said it was always important to her to make violin lessons enjoyable, completely different from her own rigorous training, and she continues in this vein.
"I try to make it fun and build up their self-esteem because I know they're suffering in so many other ways," she said. "We can laugh with the music, and experience happiness. And when we are sad, we can take it out on the violin. It allows your emotions to come out."
Many of her students are going through auditions for orchestras now, Mitchell said, so she also guides them through making recordings.
"I have a passion to teach, to give back for what I've learned," she said. "And they are moving on, getting better. That's why it's important for them to continue to play now. Some day we will go back to our new normal."
Tamriko Siprashvili has drawn crowds to her local performances for years, notably to benefit Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council for its school programs.
"I love to play for people," Siprashvili said. "It feeds me, the interaction. Live music is live music and nothing can change that."
She thinks that when she goes back to teaching local students in person, she may continue online with others who do not live nearby.
"I never thought I would say this, but yes, I see that (teaching online) I can accomplish things," she said.
Siprashvili's teaching lineage goes back six generations, starting with Beethoven who played with Carl Czerny, from there to Franz Liszt, and through the ages until Tamriko was trained at Moscow Conservatory of Music.
"I was very lucky to have the greatest teachers, and what legacy do you leave? To pass that knowledge to other people," Siprashvili said.
She hopes something good will come from this difficult time of illness, suffering and sheltering at home.
"All of a sudden, we realize that art is incredibly important in our life, that is our spiritual life," Siprashvili said. "This situation is the first time for our generation to experience something like this, and it is humbling."
Nancy Mitchell expressed the same sentiment.
"We all need music now," Mitchell said. "It is the heart and joy of the soul, so healing. Even with this virus, we are still blessed with this universal language."